CAMBRIDGE, new york – When voters in Cambridge, New York, decided to the city the school was in a renovation, science teacher Steve Butz knew that there was a piece of the 1950’s building that deserved to be preserved: the door to the principal’s office.
The closed door once served as a model for one of Norman Rockwell’s iconic paintings, “the Girl With the Black Eye, also known as “The Shiner” and “the victory in Defeat.”
“Holy cow!” Butz recalled thinking when he heard the school intended to throw the door as part of the $11 million rehabilitation. “We must save.”
In 1953, Rockwell drove the short distance from his studio in Arlington, Vermont, Cambridge, a village between the rolling farmland 35 miles northeast of Albany.
Rockwell often used for the locals and the locales for settings in his work for The Saturday Evening Post. In Cambridge, he found inspiration for his depiction of a schoolgirl awaiting her turn in the principal’s office after getting in a fight.
Rockwell took photos of the principal’s office and the door as well as the director and his secretary. He even had the door taken from its hinges and brought to his studio. Later in his studio, he took pictures of models standing in for the principal and the secretary.
Are studio photo shoots also included Mary Walen Leonard, 11, which dissolved serves as a model for the tough, plaid skirt wearing girl with the post-fight wild braids.
Rockwell, who later moved to the Berkshires in Massachusetts, was “like a movie director,” said Stephanie Plunkett, deputy director and chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
“He would tell his models how he wanted them to pose, what expressions he wanted,” she said. “Sometimes he would even act out the scene.”
The resulting illustrations for “The Shiner” appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post of May 23, 1953, edition. The original oil painting is part of the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.
The renovation of the building that now houses the Cambridge-based primary and secondary schools called for the reconfiguration of the elementary principal Colleen Lester’s office, and the replacement of the famous door. Butz received approval for the maintenance of the door as part of an exhibition at the school’s important role in one of Rockwell’s most famous works.
The door is placed in a glass case in the vicinity of the school, the library, since November, accompanied by some of Rockwell’s black-and-white reference photographs and a framed copy of the Saturday Evening Post cover.
Students think it is “cool” that a lot of the local tradition with national appeal has preserved and exhibited in their school, Butz said. The door serves as a tool for art students to learn how artists such as Rockwell approach to their work, ” he said.
“There was a whole process” the illustrator used, Butz said. “I didn’t know that he took pictures of everything.”